I’ve always found visual novels to be one of the most gripping genres of video games I’ve ever played. Just like with books, I get lost in their stories. But unlike books, there are visuals, choices, and audio to accompany the strong narrative. I also find that visual novel developers can tell a good scary story.
My love for horror visual novels first began with Yangyang Mobile’s The Letter, and my admiration for the subgenre has only gotten stronger since then, especially when AAA titles have failed to impress me. One developer who’s made a name for themselves is Black Tabby Games. Their episodic, queer horror visual novel, Scarlet Hollow, has impressed many in the community.
Alongside that title, they’re also working on a new title that’s grabbed everyone’s attention: Slay the Princess. I was able to get early access to an updated version of the demo, and I must say, as both a horror enthusiast and visual novel extraordinaire, I’m blown away by what Black Tabby Games presented here.
Slay the Princess isn’t your typical fairy tale
Slay the Princess is a comedy horror visual novel where the game’s Narrator tells you that you need to slay a princess. This princess is chained up in a cabin out in the middle of the woods. If you don’t, the world will end. The same result will occur if she manages to leave the cabin. Will you be able to end her life for the good of the world, or will you spare her?
It’s an interesting twist on the old fairytale we’ve all heard during childhood. Instead of saving the Princess from some dastardly villain, we’re saving the world from her. At least, that’s what the Narrator is telling you. But is there more to the Princess than he’s letting on?
Who do you trust?
Throughout the demo, the Narrator will warn you about the Princess’ manipulative behavior and that you should trust him and him alone. However, with him giving so few details about the Princess, can you really do that? Or should you trust the chained-up Princess, who you’ve been warned about being a dangerous woman who can end the world instead?
You’re able to talk to these two characters a bit, trying to get as much information out of them as possible before coming to a decision of either slaying the Princess or sparing her. One thing that Slay the Princess does well at is giving the player context clues through the art, text, and phenomenal voice acting. I noticed this especially with the villainess herself, who’s voiced by the talented Nichole Goodnight.
During one playthrough, I told the Princess that I was going to end her life. However, once I descended the stairs, I dropped my knife, and the two of us started to talk. She kept mentioning the word trust. She talked about how I didn’t know her and that by freeing her and hoping she wouldn’t do anything bad, I would be putting my faith in a complete stranger. All of this was true. She was making valid points. I was considering sparing her.
But when it came time to ask her about her name, she couldn’t tell me what it was. She couldn’t give me specifics on anything, much like how the Narrator couldn’t. This gave me pause.
Perhaps it’s because unlike the Narrator, I’m able to see her. Or maybe it’s because she’s someone I can form a relationship with. Either way, a name is the first thing you need to form a connection with someone. If you don’t have that, you can’t trust them, now can you? Her inability to answer me forced me to look at the bigger picture with the Princess.
This woman’s chained up. However, when I saw her, she only had one chain on because the other one’s broken, giving the player the idea that she could have been the reason for that. If that’s true, she has superhuman strength and is capable of more than her appearance lets on.
Additionally, she looks oddly healthy for someone who hasn’t seen sunlight or eaten in who knows how long. How is that even possible? It’s these little details that’ll help you make informed decisions.
Every choice felt like life or death
In a horror game, it’s critical to make the player be on the edge of their seat, terrified of what will happen next. Slay the Princess did this very well. On one of my playthroughs, I slayed the Princess without saying a word to her, refusing to let her manipulate me.
However, with her dying breath, she said, “Do you actually believe this was enough to kill me?” And that made me wonder: was it? Then, the game gave me a choice: to check for a pulse or to leave.
Do I dare touch the body of someone I just killed, or do I leave the basement? While the horror buff and writer in me screamed to leave, a naïve part of me wanted to see if she was still alive. Plus, if I turn my back on her, who’s to say she won’t get up and attack me? It’s choices like these that shape Slay the Princess into a tense, thrilling experience.
Plenty to explore
Depending on your choices, you’ll be put on different paths and will be rewarded with one of the demo’s 10 endings. For a demo, there was plenty to discover. With each new playthrough that I did, I saw a new side to the Princess that I didn’t see on a previous run. On top of that, each route added a new character to the mix, which enhanced the game’s narrative. With the demo featuring so much content already, I can only imagine what the full game will have in store.
So far, Slay the Princess has thoroughly impressed me. There’s so much to love about the game from the fantastic writing down to the wonderfully crafted but unsettling world you find yourself in. Even though I’m fearful of her, I want to know more about the Princess and learn why she’s down in that basement in the first place. I also want to learn more about the Narrator because it’s clear there’s more to him than meets the eye. So it’s safe to say that Black Tabby Games has got me strapped in for whatever wild ride they have planned for me.
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